I lead a busy life away from Integra, usually revolving around family, travel, football and music. The last few weeks have been no different although a more significant part of my time has been dedicated to my own health.
In mid-2021 I had some pains in my chest that, being a bloke, I put down to indigestion. The FD was, however, having none of it and persuaded me to visit A and E. This turned out to be the most important bit of nagging I have ever been on the receiving end of!
Fortunately I hadn’t had a heart attack but I then spent several weeks having all sorts of tests on my heart functionality in order to ascertain the issue.
Some of you may know that I have been a type 1 diabetic for over 30 years. There is also a history of heart disease in my family (My dad had a couple of heart attacks, a triple heart bypass and ended up with a pacemaker defibillator in his chest and my mum had stents fitted) – all in all I was a high risk candidate for heart problems. I was already taking medication to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.
The outcome of all the tests (cardiograms, MRI scans, echocardiograms, angiograms) resulted in a poor prognosis and a recommendation that I have bypass surgery as a preventative measure. Whilst my heart was basically strong and functioning well, the plumbing was 80% "furred up."
Fortunately, I have a very positive mindset and love a plan. I like to be in control of the things I can control and I never worry about the things that I can’t.
I literally drew up a plan to get things sorted.
I have always held private medical insurance – even when things got tough in the business around 2007/08 we always maintained our cover – I quickly ascertained that I was covered for the proposed procedures and arranged to meet the surgeon and schedule surgery.
About this time I had a number of well meaning friends who asked if I was going to get another opinion or tried telling me that they had looked on Google and ascertained various snippets of information. I politely ignored all of this noise – I had by this time had a whole army of cardio experts review my case and I wasn’t interested in the detail, just the basic process, expected outcome and recovery plan. After all, I know how to drive my car but I don’t know how it works!
By electing to go privately, I was successfully able to schedule my procedure for early December which gave me time to organise my life (both personal and business) and meant that my recovery would be over the Christmas and New Year period which would have less negative impact on both.
I did organise a new will and lasting power of attorney just in case. I also kept my clients in the loop and brought the FD fully up to speed business wise including ensuring there was no work or invoicing outstanding. This was part of ensuring that I remained in control and kept stress to a minimum. If things didn’t go as well as hoped, I was not going to leave any unnecessary mess behind for my family or clients of my business.
I won’t bore you with the medical detail but Mr Mario Petrou and his team were fantastic and I had 100% trust in everything they were to do.
Just six days in the Harley Street Clinic and then I was able to come home and get on with life. The photograph shows me just seven days after the operation. Some of my cheekier (or ruder) friends have said that they think I must have had cosmetic surgery not heart surgery as I look so much better. I didn’t but it is possibly an indication that I was not in such great shape before the procedure.
Now, as I write, I am getting fitter and stronger every day and I am incredibly thankful for being given the opportunity of leading a fulfilling life for many more years. I do not intend to waste that opportunity.
I have managed to reduce my daily painkillers from eight to three tablets and I am using an exercise bike gently to build up strength. I have lost a stone in weight and greatly reduced my alcohol intake. My blood pressure readings have gone from high (and supported by medication) to near normal and no medication. My heart appears to be fine – in fairness it was always OK, it was the plumbing that was seriously failing. That issue has hopefully now been rectified courtesy of taking a vein from my left leg and the skills of a brilliant medical and surgical team. I look forward to a follow up consultation in January with Mario Petrou and, I accept, that it will, of course, take a little time for the physical wounds to heal, although the human body is incredible in how quickly it mends.
Christmas, despite concerns around covid was particularly special this year and Sue and I spent Xmas Day with our daughter and her family and Boxing Day with our son and his family.
I have naturally had a little more “me time” in recent weeks and, as well as reading and listening to music, I have been revaluating my life and thinking about what I want for Sue and myself as we move forward.
I intend to go back to work early in 2022 - there are still things to be achieved and it will be Integra's 20th anniversary in 2023. I have, however, now set a clear end date that I will work towards on a phased basis over the next year or two.
Sport and music
I have been writing, both songs, and about my recent experience and how important a positive mindset and having clear and actionable plans helped me - we’ll see whether this sees the light of day as a blog or even a book in the weeks and months ahead. Irrespective, it has been cathartic in thiking and writing about it.
I have already scheduled Watford’s home game with Norwich (21st January) as my return to Vicarage Road. They certainly need my support as they fight against relegation from the Premier League.
On the music front I have been introduced to a local group of musicians and hope to do some “open mic” gigs in the coming weeks and possibly even get a gigging outfit together. I have enough material written for an album and perhaps I now have the motivation to get it recorded.
In January I shall see old friends Bad Influence at Dusty’s and in February, Laurence Jones in Newbury and, in April When Rivers Meet and Troy Redfern, also in Newbury. Tickets have been acquired for Elton John at Watford in July and Camel in London and Aylesbury as far ahead as July 2023!
Having enjoyed a number of short UK breaks away in the second of half of 2021 (Newark, Corfe Castle, Haworth, Hebden Bridge, Clitheroe, St Austell and Grasmere) a short break to St David’s in South Wales is booked for March and a fortnight on the Greek islands of Rhodes, Symi and Leros is booked for September with our good friends Andy and Marianne.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to all of my family, friends and industry contacts and clients who have sent positive thoughts and words of encouragement in recent weeks. Not one to shy away from social media, I have posted four articles/updates about me since my operation. These have been read, commented upon and shared over 100,000 times. Either people have been amazed that I actually have a heart or, as I prefer to think, they have been genuinely interested in my situation and progress. Either way - thank you.